Posted by: Craig Woolheater on August 24th, 2011
Cryptomundian WVBotanist offers this insight regarding the Cryptomundo post: Retired US Forest Service Ranger Claims Sasquatch is Real!
Forest service employees are not extraordinary in terms of honesty, knowledge, or scientific ability. They are often, however, exposed to information that the Department of Interior would rather keep as secret. For example, Indian burial mounds in various National Parks. They are there, but are not officially recognized because of the political and ownership issues that would arise. I have seen that first-hand, a number of times.
And, like the spotted owl example given above, the DOI is very much involved in suppression of information regarding some species’ presence and distribution. One solid example I witnessed firsthand involved the Florida Panther. USFWS and the State of Florida have drafted and followed a plan, according to Endangered Species Act requirements, that basically outlines the range of the Florida Panther as extending only as far north as Lee County. No major Federal actions north of this location are reviewed with regard to the potential to impact or result in a ‘take’ of the Florida Panther. Why? Until recently, land development and mid-range luxury housing and ranchettes, planned communities, and similar drove the entire economy of Florida in that area. If you have wetland (Section 404 CWA) impacts, you have a Federal action requiring a USFWS review under the Endangered Species Act. And nearly every land development and road project in Florida has wetland impacts and Section 404 permits. None mention panthers, unless they are in Lee County or south. Follow so far?
Now, see how many state and federal biologists will readily tell you that the Florida panther lives and breeds well north of Lee County. Do a FOIA to Sarasota County Natural Resources regarding panther tracks, trail camera photos, and, in particular, the excellent biologist who brought this to the Feds and the State. What happened? They all sat on it, with the exception of a few stories in the local paper designed to
a) cheer for the land management program and
b) explain that it was a cryptorchid pet or hybrid and not a REAL panther in the photo.
Why? Here are a few names: Palmer. Patton. Bush. Thaxton. String those players together, from bottom to top, and you have a pretty clear story of how and why DOI controls information.
Having established that, consider that despite what you hear about the Forest Service, Park Service, USFWS, USACE, and a number of other agencies charged with implementing and enforcing various conservation and biodiversity legislation, usually it is only the entry-level and field staff that even begin to understand the challenges and the science involved. Above that, most are playing politics, and above that, the appointed Administrators are mostly only carrying out a scripted agenda to placate lobbyists or follow the new President’s short-term needs. In short, actual conservation science or even simple cataloging of biodiversity almost NEVER happens. Most of today’s science and EIS data come from university grad students on bean and rice stipends OR excellent USGS Biological Survey documents from DECADES ago.
OK, that was almost a rant. But from someone who has been through those ranks, seen it firsthand, still loves science and biology, and actively works as a consultant – I routinely ‘re-discover’ organisms and EPA often responds ‘that can’t be, there are no records of that for the past xyz years’ and promptly overrule my findings unless vouchered (I do plants, but rarely voucher animals). Organismal biology and identification (taxonomy) is a dying science in this molecular era. Few know how to do it, and fewer still can get paid to do it, as scientists should. And when they do, the environmental policy wonks (yes you can get a degree in that) hide what they are not prepared to deal with. It is that simple. Small conspiracies, sometimes, but mostly incompetence.
No idea what to make of the interview, it seems believable enough, but I can’t get more than that from it.